Monday, February 28, 2011

Kathryn Logan: Reflecting on the Artistic Project

Kathryn shares her thoughts on creating The Orchard, her dance/music collaboration with Kayla Herrmann.

When the Fellowship started for us in June, I had already been a part of four previous Kenan Fellow Artistic Projects, and had twenty close friends who had been Kenan Fellows before. Point being, I came prepared, in a way-- with expectations. I had an idea of how it all worked.

But if there is anything that has been ingrained in me more deeply over these last six months, it is that every experience is perfectly unique. With preparation or without, you must allow each moment, each piece of art, be what it is.

And, frankly, nothing could have quite prepared me for the incredible experience I had with the creation of The Orchard. When Kayla and I began considering the idea of collaborating on a concept, I was laying on a pile of rocks by a river in Tulsa, Oklahoma, finishing up the last leg of my musical tour. We were talking on the phone about what was consuming our minds at the time, and found enough similarities in our engrossed solo thought processes that collaboration seemed inevitable.

For both Kayla and me (and it seems Drew and Ben and Amanda as well… interesting…) space seemed to be a recurring thought-theme. I was coming off of a five-week tour by myself-- having seen for the first time the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Park-- experiencing an amount of space that, having been in New York City for over two years (and the greater part of the last 8 years), was an overwhelming and welcome change. And I imagine that moving to New York for the first time brings up the awareness of space in another kind of way.

Kayla was also rediscovering yoga, and I had just finished a yoga teacher-training program. We were both fascinated by awareness of self, and, having been learning about Lincoln Center Institute’s philosophies, the responsibility and curiosity of self that is very much paralleled with yogic philosophies and discoveries.

Point being: the more we talked, the more obvious it became that all of these things belonged together in some way. And if we dug deeper into these concepts, perhaps we could find an artistic through-line.

We started rehearsal with the dancers not long after I returned from tour. Even if our project wasn’t going to be accepted, these were ideas that Kayla and I wanted to explore artistically. We spent the greater part of the first month of September meeting and talking and digging and reading and exploring…

After the project was accepted, we kicked things into high gear. Movement rehearsals were happening at least twice a week, moving up to about three times a week in November (once we had space availability at LCI!).

Dig. Read. Talk. Move. Meditate. Meet. Dig. Read. Explore.

There is a part of me that believes that if you explore earnestly, and dig deeply, and communicate openly, you will create something worth seeing. Sometimes I think I don’t know much beyond that about art making. But listening and making decisions that your brain doesn’t necessarily want but your gut knows is right-- there is something in that. And I will hopefully spend my life searching to understand that thing.

Why film for this piece? Mostly, originally, because one of the original visions for this piece was of humans hanging from trees, and I was not ready to give that up. I seem to have a lot of ideas for artwork that require people to be perfectly inhuman. In recognition of the fact that the Clark Studio Theater could likely not supply wires from which the dancers could hang in mid-air, video seemed the alternative.

Once the idea of including video in the production was accepted, our minds started reeling. You could do so much to create atmosphere with the added aspect of video projection. So if we’re going to do it-- let’s do it.

Meeting John Appleton was a great gift. His girlfriend was a dancer at School of the Arts and we met at a show. He off-handedly suggested that he was interested in film-art, and I off-handedly mentioned that I was doing the shooting, designing and editing of the film for this piece alone and I might tear my hair out with everything else I had going on, and thus-- love was born.

We had a meeting. I showed him the footage I had shot already, explained our vision for the piece, let him read the proposal and the Arc layout with choreography I had written, etc… But when he found out we were using Shostakovich’s 8th string quartet, he was hooked. What are the chances that that just so happens to be his very favorite string quartet of all time and he had been dying for years to do something with it and he already knew all of its history?

John and I scheduled a film shoot. I got Aaron, Katy and Dale to come out to Prospect Park in all black and we spent the day climbing trees and jumping from them.

I slipped into the role of film director like it was created for me. I have wanted to go in that direction for some time, and this shoot sort of settled it for me.

With December came the final music score decision, and things started rapidly falling into place. Things were tense at times and difficult, of course. Any piece this big, with this many aspects and collaborators is likely going to get intense at moments. And with Kayla out of town for the month of December, all of our communication was over phone and email. And a lot can get lost in translation when you aren’t face to face.

Just as I suspected, in our first meeting after she returned to New York in January, we flew through information together. It seemed all we needed was just an hour to sit down and be able to look at each other to understand what we had been trying to scream at each other via email for the last month. We both let out a bunch of “Oh!”s.

Tech rehearsals came and so did the musicians and then things started to become real. Syncing up video with live music with dancers with lighting with vision of how timing needed to happen in order for a movement to be effective… I suspected from the beginning would be a challenge. But these musicians proved to be incredible. They put these pieces of music together so quickly and were so willing to negotiate timings to the benefit of the concept of the piece.

One moment I will hold dearly for the rest of my life is a moment before the second performance on Sunday. We were in the Clark, and the dancers had a question about some musical timings that were slightly different in the live music than they were in the recordings we had been using. So, standing at the front, I asked the musicians to go to a particular measure in the music so the dancers could rehearse a moment in one section of the piece. We rehearsed that a few times. I felt like one of my deepest life-long dreams had been realized in this moment. Here I was, asking a string quartet to play something again and again, directing dancers-- I felt like choreographer for one of the great ballet companies, long ago. On a smaller scale, of course-- I certainly claim to be no Nijinsky in front of the Ballet Russes, but something in that moment made me feel a sense of timelessness. Of bigness. Which is exactly what Kayla and I were trying to create with this piece. I could have collapsed with happiness.

And how satisfied are we with a final product ever? I think all creators/directors wish at the end for one more week of rehearsal! Six more hours! Just give me a little more time and I can… But again, the lesson: you have to let it be exactly what it is. At some point you have to sit back (in my case, in the audience!) and just enjoy this thing you have put so much of your self and discovery and love into for the last six months. My expectation of the Fellowship was much like my original vision for this piece: eventually irrelevant. Because if you cling too tightly to that then you can’t feel what it becomes, you can only see what it has not become.

And on Sunday, with the relinquishing of this expectation, with the relinquishing of original vision, I allowed myself to be taken over by The Orchard into which I had been placed. And I cried. And I let something go. And in letting something go, I had the recognition of space inside of me. And whether that was my vision from the beginning or not, it was exactly what I needed. And I was moved.

Photos of The Orchard by Melissa Gawlowski, Lincoln Center Institute:

Katy Gilmore and Dale Harris

Dale Harris and Aaron McGloin

Dale Harris, Katy Gilmore, and Aaron McGloin

Dale Harris, Aaron McGloin, and Katy Gilmore

Katy Gilmore

 Aaron McGloin, Katy Gilmore, and Dale Harris

Kathryn Logan in rehearsal

Friday, February 25, 2011

Drew Madland Reflects on the Kenan Fellowship

When I think about being a Fellow over the last 5 months it is hard to separate personal, professional and artistic growth. The Fellowship has been a holistic experience for me. The Capacities and the Institute have helped me understand the inter-connectedness of the whole of my experience. I have become a better horizontal thinker by tuning into my brain's ability to make connections among all facets of my art and life.

The Capacities of Noticing Deeply, Making Connections, Exhibiting Empathy, and Living With Ambiguity all intertwine in a constant feedback loop of information, interpretation, clarification, questioning and re-interpretation that make each Capacity a part of every other Capacity. They are a distilled flow chart of the natural movement of an open, hungry, imaginative mind. The Capacities help one see possibility and imagine the greatest heights while also sharpening the ability to recognize the actual circumstances and work within the limitations imposed by the specifics of time, space, and energy. The result of constantly re-investing in the Capacities as inseparable from one another is the blossoming of ingenuity, industriousness, originality and perseverance of will.

We are strong in our diversity. When we stay open to one another, we learn from one another; we also learn to recognize the quality and depth of own creative and emotional impulses. By staying open we gain perspective on what else our thoughts can mean, what else others' thoughts can mean, what the meaning is, was, and could be. Staying open to one another allows the Capacities to grow into an interconnected web of exploding possibility. When we embrace our differences, we expand our knowledge naturally and always ask ourselves to ask more, to go deeper.

The craft of the question is one of the most important skills I have enhanced throughout the study and use of Aesthetic Education. How do I craft the perfect question for the imagination to release into possibilities? Each question is like a light switch that illuminates an otherwise dark corner of the mind, the subconscious, the memory and the immediate sensory experience of each individual.

I feel my emotions up to my skin as I have gained deeper sensitivity and understanding of my intuition. It sits in my stomach and tells me the truth that colors my everything.

The Freedom of time, space and energy during the majority of my self-structured tuned me into many more layers of the reality of my surroundings than I would have perceived within a more structured context. Empowered with the freedom to explore the size, shape, depth and meaning of my time in space, the qualities, the textures of that time, the knowledge it has garnered, works on my senses and sensibility and layers my awareness of myself as an artist and professional in New York City and the World. The Fellowship gave me the time and space to understand, through trial and error, how much time it takes to do anything on my own in NYC, from doing laundry, to creating and producing an original work of art, to preparing for and attending acting class, to being on time. I had to plan my plan, time to arrange the use of my time. I discovered that keeping a master schedule and putting in at least an hour a day to send e-mails, make phone calls, and double check my appointments/deadlines is crucial to my success as a one-man business. This process has also clarified my intentions as an artist and actor, specifying what I want and how to go about getting it by trying to do what I think I want, succeeding, failing, or partially failing, reflecting and trying again. It pays to be stubborn with your dreams.

If I were to go back in time and give advice to someone in my position one year ago, these are the things I would say: Trust yourself and follow through. Don’t let the others’ judgments and insecurities get you down; do what you want to do regardless of outside pressure. Love yourself as much as you love others, always. Listen with your whole body and allow it to inform your response; when you have a traumatically beautiful or terrible experience let it knock around for a while and turn itself over in your memories; they have something to tell you, and if you listen to yourself, you will learn from those moments. You can learn something from everything. In every moment, there is infinite possibility, but sometimes you can’t see it, and that’s ok. Self-reliance is hard to live up, to but independence is golden. It is not fair, and most people don’t care if that hurts your feelings. Know who your friends are and nourish your bonds with them in order to cultivate collaboration, radical thinking and to solidify individual and collective action toward achieving your common goals. If you make possibility a reality it has the potential to bring more joy into life for more people, especially yourself. Doing and being are both important; take responsibility to maintain the balance.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Amanda Hinchey Reflects on the Kenan Fellowship

Despite all of the stress that I inflicted on myself over the course of the Fellowship, I can honestly say that I have been able to find more happiness in the work that I am focusing on here in NYC. There is much more of an overall feeling of hope, whereas before I tended to feel completely depressed whenever I thought of all of the goals I wanted to accomplish. With all of the time that has been allotted for me to simply focus on myself and my art-making, along with the self-reflection inspired by the process of Aesthetic Education, I am becoming much more comfortable in expressing my opinions on works of art, as well as making decisions in my own creative process. It has also helped shift the way that I communicate with other people, by providing a safe environment where I’m given the chance to practice being more vocal in discussions of art or any other subject. In all parts of my life, from creating art to writing or having a conversation, it has always been my way to think thoroughly before I act, so that whatever comes out is as close to perfect the first time around. Being a part of this Fellowship has allowed me to try thinking out loud more often, and being okay with the notion of coming up with many different ideas and then working with those ideas to see which is best. It has allowed me to explore the grey area of the process between the question and finding the answer.

Going through this Fellowship has also given me ample time to focus on my skills at networking, which I believe will be one of the most important tools for me in continuing with what I have started to build as a result of this experience. I have always had difficulty with reaching out to people for help, whether it is artistically, professionally or personally, but this experience has truly shown me how difficult it is to accomplish anything in this city on your own. This is something that I never fully appreciated, even though much of what I have done in the city was the direct result of successful networking. Currently, it is still a challenge for me to even work up the courage to email another person, and because of this hesitation, which kept me from responding immediately to certain situations, I began to create a great deal of unnecessary stress. This is something that I feel I have improved on, but will still being working on for long after the Fellowship. As part of the process of putting our final shows together, we have had to rely a lot on the kindness of others because of our limited budget, and none of that would have been possible were it not for the personal connections that we have made both in and outside of this Fellowship. Because of this, I have become more at home with the idea that going forward from here it will be necessary to ask people for help at times, as they will undoubtedly be asking me for help, as well.

I’m extremely grateful to have had so much exposure to the process of aesthetic education, and I know that it has made a lasting mark on how I view art and the world in general. The aspect of this process that has directly affected me the most is the Capacity of “Living with Ambiguity”. It is something that I and many of my friends who work in the arts seem to struggle with, and yet it is vitally important to survival in this city. There needs to be a certain amount of trust within ourselves that we will be able to accomplish what it is that we are setting out to do, and that there is no point in trying to control what will happen in the future. It is impossible to do so, and trying to will only result in more pain and stress. I used to feel as though it was my worrying and nervous energy that made sure that I never became lazy or complacent, and now I can see how much that misplaced energy was holding me back because of all the anxiety it created. After this Fellowship has come to an end, it will be important for me to continue to build that trust in myself, and “Living with Ambiguity” as to what the future holds will be a huge part of the process of continuing to build that trust.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Kayla Herrmann Reflects on the Kenan Fellowship

Below are the three questions Kayla's mentor Jessica posed for reflection on the Fellowship, followed by Kayla's responses.

1. In what ways has this Fellowship instigated a new or different outlook on pursuing various career possibilities as a musician?

2. What teaching strategies or concepts struck you most during this Fellowship, and what might you incorporate into your own pedagogy as a teacher?

3. What aspects of your unstructured time will you incorporate into your daily life as you grow your career?

Recently I have been noticing how important artistic teachers are in the public and private school setting. It doesn’t take a conservatory-trained musician to inspire creativity and appreciation for the arts. I realized that often, conservatory-trained musicians are unable to communicate with children. They are unable to teach, unable to articulate musical ideas to a student. This Fellowship has given me a unique opportunity to notice how important education is in the non-private lesson setting. Students need the opportunity to explore their creativity. I think that as I continue with graduate school, I will spend some time focusing on early childhood education and/or community music outreach.

I have been fascinated with LCI’s teaching artists' ability to ask questions while not focusing on a right or wrong answer. No asking questions that demand a "yes" or "no", and no asking questions where there is one right answer. I am beginning to notice areas in my own teaching where I can do the same. In my own cello teaching, I can start asking the children what the notice instead of what they liked or disliked, therefore opening up the possible answers. I have also tried to stop asking weighted questions: questions with a right and wrong answer. So instead of asking the student how the phrase should go, if there is a specific answer I am looking for, I will demonstrate that idea and ask them what they noticed about it. That way I am teaching them how to hear the phrase correctly, instead of asking them to guess the right answer when they have no abilities or skill sets to determine the right answer to begin with.

One thing I have learned from having self-structured time is that I need to balance sitting at home practicing with collaborating and interacting with people. It is important for my brain to stay active by working with others. I am also learning how much I dislike managing and writing emails. Of all the administrative tasks that come with being an entrepreneur, that is probably my least favorite. I found that if I do them early in the day, like before 9 a.m., I am much more likely to get it done. By the time 10 a.m. rolls around, I’m already feeling guilty that I haven’t practiced enough, and that seems to be the only thing on my mind for the rest of the day. But even I do not usually feel like practicing at 7 a.m. (and my apartment building appreciates this, I’m sure).

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Megan Szymanski Reflects on the Kenan Fellowship

Below are the questions Megan's teaching artist mentor Lisa posed to Megan in reflection of the Fellowship, followed by Megan's responses.

1. Describe your LCI classroom experience and journey. How has it resonated with you?

2. In what ways has your AE experience as a Kenan Fellow changed or affected your final presentation and your artistic perspective?

3. How has it affected your flute practice? In what ways?

My journey in the classroom with Lisa is something I will never forget. Going through this process was something I was really looking forward to in this Fellowship, because it was the one component I was the least familiar with. It was the first time I had worked with groups of children in Kindergarten through 2nd grade. Since I am primarily a visual learner, I learned the most from observing Lisa and taking notes. By observing, I naturally started adopting the ideas of Aesthetic Education (AE) into my own life, sometimes without realizing it. It is especially evident in my private teaching. For example, I have been asking the student open-ended questions instead of first telling him the answer. Then I deliberately make sure to take action and reflect on the experience. It is a pretty simple process that can bring much greater “results” (sometimes not the intended results) when implemented. I feel lucky to have been able to watch an entire unit at a school, with someone there to answer my questions and help me understand the details. Since there were 17 classes, I didn’t see all of them every week, but there were some classes that I saw all four weeks. It would have been especially rewarding to see the kids on the day of the performance, and even to go with them to the performance. However, I understand the role of the Teaching Artist compared to the classroom teacher, and how they have to balance as a team. This Fellowship would not have been complete without the LCI classroom aspect, and now I can really appreciate the care that adults need to take to help shape and mold a young child into an imaginative and creative thinker.

Learning about Aesthetic Education definitely had an impact on creating my artistic project. Although I will no longer be performing in January, it was still beneficial to go through the process of creating the project (“Aria: A Journey to the Heart”). It was similar to creating the lesson plans, in a way, because I had to think about what the experience would be like for the audience from an aesthetic point of view. Although it is not directly “education”, it still takes the audience through a journey, an experience that could have multiple interpretations. I also had to consider transitions and “flow”, and how each section related to the overall purpose (similar to the “line of inquiry”). I also considered multiple attention spans and learning styles, and to make the experience more “whole”, I added a visual component, in addition to using several different combinations of musicians.

In my flute practice, probably the most evident Capacity that comes to mind is “Living with Ambiguity”. There are so many ways to play music, and our job is to make a choice (sometimes in the moment) and accept that not everyone will agree with it. I am also trying to approach new music in a different way. I ask myself, should I start with some contextual research (listening to recordings, score study, historical information)? Usually that works for me, but sometimes a quick look at the music first is also beneficial. Then, I use a lot of resources to understand the music better, but not all at once. I am getting in the habit of writing a question mark next to a spot in the music where I’m not sure what interpretation to use. The Capacity of “Making Connections” is also a huge one with practice. We should always be trying to connect our warm-ups to our repertoire study, figure out how composers are related to their own compositions and others, and the list goes on. Since I am such an avid journal keeper, I have been trying to journal in my flute notebook a little bit after practicing. It helps me reflect on the struggles and successes of the day. It is very helpful to have tangible proof of my progress, which is why I also record my flute playing often.

Learning about AE has also made me understand more about what it is to be an artist. Sometimes instrumentalists in particular struggle with the “artistry” part of being a musician, because we are so focused on the mechanical part of mastering an instrument. Sound and technique and musical interpretation (from information) are so essential to us, because these things absolutely do determine a large amount of our success. However, we have to be very careful to balance the “machine” with the “human”. That is what really distinguishes certain musicians, and when we find those musicians, we can never really put a finger on what makes them so special. We try, but that’s part of the reason for art: to give what cannot be said in words. After my AE experience, I like to refer back to the Capacities to help with that idea of Artistry. Using the Capacities is what brings us deeper into our art. It’s the place where we have “aha!” moments. When we have those moments of deep experiential learning, then we actually have something to say when we express ourselves through our arts.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Benjamin Garner Reflects on the Kenan Fellowship

Benjamin's teaching artist mentor Patrick asked Benjamin three questions for reflection on the Kenan Fellowship. Below, Benjamin provides his responses.

What are three highlights or big impressions of your whole Kenan Fellowship experience from Summer Session to now? (Consider: epiphanies, key ideas, personal process and growth)

a. Time Management. Over the course of this Fellowship I have had to revisit ghosts of my past days where I was rarely not overbooked, and I did not know what sarcasm meant, the days all seemed to flow into one another. Well, sometimes they still do seem that way; however, the simple act of keeping track of daily work has thrown all of my plans into perspective. Using time management has helped me learn how to be punctual in New York; which I have also learned is a make-or-break skill to have in this city, if you catch my drift, and if you don’t, I’m saying that one can be fortuitous and profitable by showing up on time.

I feel more confident that I can make realistic plans to accomplish my goals and ambitions for this city.

b. Brainstorming. This is the powerhouse that builds strong creative skills. This can work very well in collaborative environments as well, when the combination is right. What does it take to brainstorm? Well, at first, heavy criticism is not really the best way, either alone or in a group. That was a slow lesson learned for me. I like when I can achieve results from toils and labor immediately; however, I have had a nearly debilitating streak in my past of being critical of others and myself to the point of frustration and abandonment. The result of that tempered me toward objectivity, observation and scientific study.

c. The Power of Revision. I have found it extremely useful to be in a constant state of revision. This requires me to be open to possibilities and change at any moment. It is a check and a balance aimed at keeping you aware of what you are doing. While in the process of developing a lesson plan for a school, or my own project proposal, or a blog entry, I use each draft as a stepping-stone. The first is usually a very rough outline of what I generally want to accomplish. The next is refined and checked for specificity. Each step gets me closer to the ultimate goal. The lesson is, keep walking and you will get where you need to go!

What teaching strategies or aspects of LCI’s approach that you witnessed through your mentor’s work in the classroom resonated with you?

First of all, teaching music creation during core classes resonates with me as a musician that reminisces about his earlier school days, sitting in core classes, daydreaming about music during class, not always interested in what the teacher was saying. This experience gives me a new appreciation for what it means to be a musician and a teacher. Patrick showed active awareness of multiple intelligences through his very clear instructions and demonstrations, and a discernment of relevance, demonstrated through adaptability to the array of questions and scenarios created by students of a wide range of education levels.

Patrick used the LCI lesson plan development process in addition to being open to collaborative input, exhibited through active communication with me during my own lesson plan development and conversations during the course of the visits to the LCI schools. All of that sounds very official, when in fact it was a wonderfully engaging experience for me, and, I think, everyone involved.

In what ways has your LCI/Kenan experience challenged and/or changed your previous ideas about art, teaching, and life in general?

Art is bold, Art is Sacred, Art affects everyone. I think that is more true now than when I began the Fellowship because I have experienced it all over New York City. It forces me to consider the impact that any single piece of art can make. I think deeply about how I feel a sense of belonging to the people around me and how I can serve them. I want to learn from them and with them. Teaching is always going to be a challenge, but it is our duty and privilege to persist and search for knowledge and understanding together.

Life is always going to have challenges. How you pick your routines and goals means what you do with your time. First of all, identifying your time and scheduled routines is half the battle to understanding what you need to do to accomplish your tasks. The Kenan Fellowship requires this of Fellows; however, after the Fellowship I will need to maintain this identification for myself. The Kenan Fellowship taught me a better sense of accountability. They also included role models who have established themselves as reliable and informative teaching artists. It is now my turn to be that role model, whether it is for my classes of students working on musicals or private students working on their etudes. I am indebted and grateful to everyone at LCI, the Kenan Institute, and UNCSA, for their strong connections to each other and to us! If you need ever need me, you know where to find me! I am at your service!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Kathryn Logan Reflects on the Kenan Fellowship

As we look ahead to the tenth year of the Kenan Fellowship (applications are due next week, and interviews begin in Winston-Salem on March 24th), we share the final reflections of our most recent Fellowship alumni. In the coming weeks we'll also share photos of their artistic projects, as well. We'll begin with a final reflection from Kathryn Logan:

I imagine that, on some level, we are all a product of our circumstances. We are a make-up of a mash-up of our experiences and the particulars of our time, location and genes. Amongst other things, perhaps-- I certainly can’t claim to hold the answers, but these are the things I have noticed.

And against which I seem to rebel.

I cannot dispute the fact that had I been born in a different area of town, into a different family, with a different source of income, different values of health and happiness and love, I would likely not have had the opportunities I’ve had, or the work ethic, or the vision.

One of the things that has struck me most particularly about LCI’s philosophy is the sense of empowerment it creates in its practitioners. The practice of aesthetic education asks of its participants a responsibility for their learning and creates in them a deeper curiosity. It is this curiosity that I feel like has been instilled in me through my circumstances. I have it naturally because of the life I have lived. But not all persons are provided the luxury of the conditions that can create this curiosity. I had a stay at home mother who didn’t allow us to watch much television. We had blank paper and each other and a deep and constant influence of music, dance, theater and visual arts classes. I spent most of my young childhood behind a sound engineering board at classical music concerts at the college where my father taught sound design, in a dance or art studio, in chamber music rehearsals, and on and on and on. The classical arts were a staple in my life, and my parents asked questions of us and treated our selves and our questions as not only valid but vital.

There are so many children in this world who grow up under the foot of the old adage that children should be "seen and not heard". Too many children are taught, if only subconsciously, that their thoughts are not important, their questions inconsequential, and their sense of empowerment is never allowed the chance to wax.

When I first came to this Fellowship and we entered Summer Season, I had done some reading of Maxine Greene and John Dewey. I had discussed the Capacities for Imaginative Learning with some of the previous Fellows. But the embodiment of the concepts of this philosophy of Aesthetic Education still eluded me. Summer Season was of course informative, and the International Educator Workshops brought me still further, as well as additional reading and discussion. But it wasn’t until I got into the classroom and started watching these philosophies, put into lessons, put into action that it really started to take an internal hold on me. (Where are we, now-- embodying, taking action… here they go…) The children with whom my mentor and I spent time were certainly informative to my life seminar in AE, but it has really been through the process of teaching that it has started to come together in my mind. Hearing myself figure out how to ask a very direct and yet somehow open question of a person as a way of leading them without leading them toward an understanding within themselves of a concept we have been exploring… It is a simply remarkable thing to discover within oneself! I have found empowerment through the process of teaching this philosophy that looks to create an empowerment within the students of its practices…

It is a loop within a loop within a loop this practice. Not linear but circular-- spiraled and infinitely tall.

There is no ceiling in this place, and it’s covered in four dimensions of mirrors.

I feel as though I am starting to have an understanding of some of the holes in this country’s educational system. The things I have seen in the public school classrooms and the vast difference a great teacher makes… In classes where a teacher is removed, the students are removed. Consistently and no matter the grade level. It occurs to me that furthering education for teachers in the school system is not only important, but absolutely necessary. Teachers need to have an active learning practice in order to be successful because they are so influential on the process of their students. If a teacher is cultivating their own curiosity, then their students will cultivate curiosity, but without that there is a crucial disconnect in the learning circle.

When Lynn and I first met, we talked about how important it was to me to move forward with my career after this Fellowship. This goal is more apparent to me now than ever, as the Fellowship is drawing to a close. I am learning that it is absolutely possible. There are ways to put work together here and there to support oneself and stay focused.

I have learned that I am not willing to give this up. I have learned about myself what is perhaps the most valuable thing of all: what I want. I am more sure than ever how important a life completely immersed in the arts is to me. I want to teach, to research, to do whatever it takes to be in it all the time, and I won’t rest until that happens. I have learned that no matter how busy I am, making my art my first priority is a choice. There is really no excuse for it not being your first priority unless you are unsure about whether you want it to be your first priority. That question is gone for me now. I am certain that this is where I want to live-- that this is what makes me most myself. Questions and discovery. Beauty and earnestness and vivacity.

And there is Teaching Artistry. I have always enjoyed teaching, but this kind of teaching is fulfilling on a whole new level. I have discovered that my work with Lynn in the classrooms, a student of this philosophy in LCI Teaching Artist clothing, has greatly influenced my own artistic and philosophical processes. The capacities I am working to cultivate within the students with whom I am working must be so clear in my mind, and as such are being explored and cultivated within me consistently, too. I am daily, hourly, making connections between discoveries I make in the classroom, or watched a child or teacher make, and my own artistic process and art viewing.

A huge part of the Fellowship for me, of course, has been the collaboration with Kayla on our artistic project. I have learned so much about my own artistic process through the collaboration on and creation of this piece. For example, sometimes what seems right to me at first (whether in a grant proposal or a dance piece) may not be what is needed, and, most surprisingly, I am much more open to changing my mind and listening to that than I thought I was. On several occasions Kayla and I have butted heads about an idea (like all collaborators do), and on several of those occasions, upon reviewing Kayla’s idea, I realized that her idea was in better support of the piece.

I have collaborated with people before, but they have always been people with whom I already had some established prior relationship. When Kayla and I first started collaborating, we had not known each other very long and knew very little about each other on an artistic level. Of course we trusted each other’s talents to an extent because we both graduated from the School of the Arts, which suggests a certain level of artistic competence in our respective fields, but there was not a speck of knowledge between us about how our collaborative artistic process would proceed.

The process has been an incredible learning opportunity. One thing that has become apparent to me is how differently people’s brains function. Yes, perhaps, this seems a little obvious to be a new discovery for someone who has been in many cross-discipline collaborations before, but if you have a prior artistic relationship with someone and have some concept of how they work, you will likely, if only subconsciously, work with people who have a similar working process or specific artistic vision as you do. Kayla and I, not having the luxury of a previous artistic relationship, had to play all of this by ear and put the microscope to our brains to analyze and amalgamate in quite the jiffy.

People Think Differently.

A lesson I’ve learned at LCI in every nook and cranny.

For some time I have been searching for a sense of continuity. I have many different loves and, so it feels, many different facets of my self. I have always felt a little scattered, as such, and I felt when I first came upon LCI that I had found a place where all the aspects of my self could finally feel as one. I really didn’t know how right I was because, as scattered as I still feel sometimes with music and yoga and dancing and choreography and etc and etc and etc… within this teaching philosophy, they can all live in an amazing kind of consonance, which is in my life so far unprecedented.

These have been some of the greatest months of my life, learning about this philosophy, putting it into action, being allowed the time and space to create, to explore, to question, to cultivate… it has been an absolute dream. The sense of empowerment created in students of LCI’s philosophy has been certainly planted in me

This Fellowship has allowed me a momentum that I’ve needed to get myself going artistically. I now have enough projects under my belt, enough of a forward movement that I’m all inertia. As though stopping at this point would take just as strong a force as it took to get me moving. And I feel like that has truly been my biggest obstacle: just getting going, meeting people, having enough time to become a part of the arts community. And to be performing and creating enough work here that I get used to it. So that if it wanes I won’t accept it. So that what is uncomfortable is not being heavily immersed in this world.

So that I can be empowered enough to refuse to fall victim to whatever my circumstances: how ever little money I may be making, whatever the conditions may be, I will be willing to do whatever it takes to stay here, to do the work. Because no matter what, it’s worth it.